It's easy to tell this much from Stephen Strasburg's start against the Marlins on Tuesday night: It was his worst in the major leagues.
But where can Strasburg improve headed into his next start on Sunday against the Diamondbacks? A closer look at the stats reveal a couple of points:
-First, hitters have been swinging and missing less against Strasburg in his last few starts. He got just eight swinging strikes in 84 pitches last night, the lowest total of any of his 10 starts. Compare that to 17 in his big-league debut and 18 in his loss to the White Sox. His four strikeouts, not coincidentally, were also the fewest of his career. That's going to happen as hitters time his fastball better, and it also didn't help that Strasburg's four-seamer was up in the zone so much while his curveball wasn't an effective second weapon. He's also faced some aggressive lineups in the Reds and Marlins. But with his next two coming against the Diamondbacks and Phillies, that's not going to change. Strasburg fared well against a couple of teams sitting dead red earlier this year (the White Sox and Giants). Some of this will be about knocking the rust off his game, but he'll do that in his next two starts against two more potent lineups.
-The homer Dan Uggla hit off Strasburg was the first a right-handed batter has delivered off him all season, but in some ways, it was the prototypical way to hit a homer against him. Uggla took a curveball for ball one, watched a fastball for a strike, fouled off two high fastballs and took a Flintstones-with-a-club swing at another high fastball that Strasburg said was supposed to be down and away. "Uggla's a good hitter," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "But the thing is, (the pitches) ran back over the plate. If you make your pitches, you end up in a better spot than that. The ball just tailed in. I've said it before; it doesn't matter how hard you throw. If the ball gets located in a bad part of the plate and running into guys, he had a good pass at it." A 98-mph fastball in that spot, to that hitter, is going to go a long ways. As Strasburg said, "He just touched it. I supplied the power."
-It didn't get brought up much after Strasburg was scratched from his first rematch opportunity against the Braves, but this was the first time he had faced a team for the second time. He pitched six shutout innings against the Marlins on July 16, and with some rust after the long layoff, Florida roughed him up. "When you haven't seen a guy, you don't know his command or his release point," Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez said. "We've seen it a couple of times now. We adjusted to it." Strasburg could get two more cracks at the Marlins this year, in Florida at the end of August and in Washington the second week of September. They'll likely be the team he faces the most in his first season, and how he progresses against them is worth watching. Byron Kerr had a look at how the Marlins approached Strasburg here.
Other thoughts or questions on Strasburg's night? Leave them here, and I'll tackle them as we go.